Three WNBA teams and several players were fined for wearing shirts voicing solidarity with the victims of recent shootings by and against police officers.
The Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, and Phoenix Mercury were fined $5,000, while players were fined $500 each for wearing black adidas shirts imprinted with hashtags referencing the victims, according to ESPN.
The WNBA says the shirts violated their uniform policy – uniforms are not allowed to be altered in any way, even though adidas is the official outfitter of the sports league.
Certain players say they will continue their silent protest by wearing black warm up shirts inside out.
Lisa Borders, president of the WNBA, attempted to defend the league’s position, releasing a statement to the AP: “We are proud of WNBA players’ engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues but expect them to comply with the league’s uniform guidelines.”
Players were fined after they ignored a league memo earlier in the week reminding them of the uniform policy. The memo was sent out after Minnesota, New York, and Dallas players wore shirts in remembrance of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and the five Dallas officers killed within the same week. In Minnesota, four officers walked off their security posts in response to the shirts.
Liberty center Tina Charles said she could no longer be silent, especially after watching the recent shooting video of Charles Kinsey, an unarmed therapist who was wounded by a North Miami cop while he lay in the street with his arms outstretched.
Charles released a statement via Instagram expressing her discontent after the fines were announced:
“Seventy percent of the WNBA players are African-American women and as a league collectively impacted. My teammates and I will continue to use our platform and raise awareness for the #BlackLivesMatter movement until the WNBA fives its support as it does for Breast Cancer Awareness, Prise and other subject matters.”
Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings, who’s also president of the players’ union, said she was disheartened with the organization’s choice.
“Instead of the league taking a stance with us, where they tell us they appreciate our expressing our concerns like they did for Orlando, we’re fighting against each other,” she said in reference to the shirts the WNBA gave to players to wear honoring the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
ESPN’s First Take analyst Anita Marks was baffled at the league’s attempt to silence players, while also noting the severity of the fine in correlation with the average $72,000 WNBA salary.
In early July, Carmelo Anthony, evoking the spirit of other famous athlete activists like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, called for athletes to step up and champion civil rights. Anthony, along with friends and fellow NBA players Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James, took a stand during a powerful opening at the ESPYS to denounce the recent shooting deaths in America.
NewsOne, where do you stand? Are the women violating work policy, or should they be allowed free speech?